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Response to Tommy_Carcetti (Reply #9)

Tue Jan 29, 2019, 11:00 AM

16. I don't know. I think the things I've seen here are strictly backwater Florida. Like the lawyers...

Last edited Tue Jan 29, 2019, 01:13 PM - Edit history (1)

In my personal journal, I intend to dedicate a chapter on why I wouldn't hire a local lawyer, and it goes down to the fact that they're so interconnected that they will only stick around long enough to learn what you know. In other words, it's up to you to uncover their conflicts of interest because they won't tell you. So when they leave, they leave you weaker than you were before you contacted them.

I am going to tell you an anecdote, but keep in mind, that this is only one of the experiences I will write about, concerning the lawyers.

Here's the necessary background: On one HOA meeting in late 1998, we managed to clean the board of the two members who were putting their interests ahead of the interests of the Association. In a nutshell, their houses abutted against the Association's common grounds and it was their hope that the new developer for the sister community would just hand over the titles of those properties over to them, in return for their support for his plans. Let that sink in. It was a huge breach of fiduciary responsibility, but fiduciary responsibility is the first casualty in a good ole boy community.

In another part of town, about the same time that we were cleaning out our Association board, the City and its co-defendants were seeing the final stage in a lawsuit filed by the old developer, who tried to develop our sister community. Part of his lawsuit claimed that he had been denied the opportunity to develop the property because of business interference and/or conspiracy. One of the City's co-defendants was the Master HOA, A HOA that empowered itself to represent all the Associations within our PUD borders, including mine.

Keep that information on the back burner.

The old developer's lawsuit against the city and the Master HOA would end with a settlement agreement that included a confidentiality clause. Years back, with the help of a public records request, I was able to go into City Hall to examine boxes of documents that were pertinent to that lawsuit. I spent a pretty penny on copies, and it would take me years to sift through the information, and even more years to finally understand what had happened.

One of the documents that I read was particularly shocking. That one I understood, almost immediately. It was a letter from a local attorney who expressed his commitment to insure that the points that were agreed on in the settlement agreement, would be observed. Remember, that one of those points involved a confidentiality clause, which would have extended to the Master HOA.

In the document, the lawyer would identify himself as the "Insurer". In one line, like a subject line, it was stated that the topic involved "Auto Casualty". To this day, this statement is still jarring to me, because his involvement had nothing to do with auto insurance. And it's that attempted misdirection that stands tall, adding to my opinion of lawyers. But it doesn't stop there.

Remember, that at the same time that the City and the Master HOA was entering into this settlement agreement in late 1998, my Association was cleaning the board of two people who allowed our Association to walk into this debacle. There was a third board member that may have also been partially involved, or at least knew more than s/he led on. In sum, there was no one I could trust, 100%.

Skip to a few months later when our HOA now had a new president who was a homeowner who had never taken part in any of the early events. He seemed to be of the right mindset, imploring us to refer to our HOA documents for guidance. Keep in mind, that we were only beginning to suspect that we had more legal rights than we were led to believe. We needed the opinion of a lawyer to confirm it. And the new president suggested the personal lawyer he had just retained to represent him as a homeowner.

Oh, God. It would be months before I would connect that we were being led down a rabbit hole. The new president of our Association had been referred to the lawyer by someone in our community. And the lawyer was the same one who had insured that the confidentiality clause would be followed. This lawyer had a conflict of interest you could drive a train through and he wouldn't tell us. Months later I confronted him and he acted like he didn't know.

But we didn't know that in early 1999. Needless to say, we went to him for clarification and he read over our documents. I remember that moment like it was yesterday. He poured over those pages and didn't even appear to stop to breathe because he came up gasping for air, almost gleeful when he crossed over a statement that he claimed vindicated the HOA president who represented our HOA when the sister community was under city review in early 1998. In layman's terms, it was a line that claimed that the president had the power to sell property. i don't know how that stacks up against primary and secondary law, since there are plenty of cases and even state laws that supersede HOA documents, but I don't believe we were sitting before an attorney who was giving us the benefit of loyalty. He concluded that a lawsuit against the city would be a "horse race," which put doubt in our minds. In other words, he averted a lawsuit that would have protected his clients in the lawsuit against the old developer.

Months later, I came across that lawyer's name in that memo I described earlier and realized his incredible conflict of interest. I hate him for it. He pushed us off the path that would have revealed just how politically intertwined this community is and, thus, denied us self-determination and justice.

There's more I could write about the tumbling consequences that are directly tied to that lawyer. I'll just mention the following: The new president developed a close relationship with him, and over time, the new president would change. He grew in the belief that he didn't need the rest of the board to make decisions. He felt he had the power to represent our Association, like a CEO.

There is no question in my mind that the lawyer led him to believe that. And it would become the beginning of the end when the new president made a rule that we would hold the board meeting first, followed immediately by a HOA meeting. Do you see how that would work out? The lawyer would have an opportunity to influence the president's direction. We only would learn what he decided at the board meeting, and wouldn't have time to investigate and research the issue to question him. I saw the flaw immediately. The lawyer was turning us into a rubber stamp.

Needless to say, I ended my participation on the board when my term was up. I don't know how anyone can agree to be part of these boards because there is liability, even if you're just a rubber stamp. But I know that part of their boldness comes from lawyers whispering in their ear, "We've got your back."

Of course, over the years this community has been able to hone their strategies to accomplish the same objective -- tamp down on information that would eventually be turned around into a lawsuit against the city and the Master HOA. And the strategy that amazes me the most, is allowing one of their cronies to serve on BOTH boards: Our Association board, as well as the Master HOA Board, which is obligated to follow the confidentiality clause. And this person is Not just anyone, mind you. But someone with military service AND ties to Tallahassee.

Imagine what it has taken to change my perspective in order to find justice. It has not only involved breaking through American sacred cows, but also required dealing with the fear of retaliation from powerful people. Needless to say all the improper board procedures that I have observed and documented over the years, makes for one hell of a curiosity.

In sum, I really do believe I got a front row seat to see how the backwater powerbase of Central Florida operates. And to say that all these machinations have interfered with the enjoyment of my property is an understatement.

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LineLineNew Reply I don't know. I think the things I've seen here are strictly backwater Florida. Like the lawyers...
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